Having been a writer for much of my life, I am always hungry to learn new story structure methodologies, writing tips, and and what drives the reader to push through a story without abandoning the novel at page two.
As many successful writers suggest, reading has a lot to do with being a good writer. I agree. But not only do I read to be a better writer, I love reading.
I finished an excellent book last week that caught me by surprise, and frankly, it’s along the lines of a story I’ve always wanted to write. Not exactly the same story, but the essence is similar. My message today is inspired by Donald Miller who wrote this excellent book, a memoir called, A million miles in a thousand years: what I learned while editing my life. In his book, Donald describes being approached about making one of his memoirs into a movie, and about how he literally had to face re-writing his life to make the movie more interesting. What he discovered about writing an engaging story for the screen seeped in to his real life.
If you’ve studied story structure, plot, character, and other tools of the writing trade you’ll know that there are certain guidelines that contribute to a great story. Certain elements of the story tug at your hemline begging you to continue. I’ve often wondered why it is that if a person can write novels or even write in a journal most days, or office memos, what stops him from writing ideas into his life? What stops her from bringing those creative ideas and adventures from the page into reality?
In his memoir, Mr. Miller says,
“I think this is when most people give up on their stories. They come out of college wanting to change the world, wanting to get married, wanting to have kids and change the way people buy office supplies. But they get into the middle and discover it was harder than they thought. They can’t see the distant shore anymore, and they wonder if their paddling is moving them forward. None of the trees behind them are getting smaller and none of the trees ahead are getting bigger. They take it out on their spouses and they go looking for an easier story.”
Why not move your dreams from the page one step closer to reality? Literally, why not—just one small step at a time? Why not keep paddling until you see the shore coming closer?
In A million miles, Mr. Miller quotes Robert McKee, who teaches a popular writing seminar about ‘Story’. McKee said, “Joy is what you feel when the conflict is over. But it’s conflict that changes a person…You put your characters through hell. You put them through hell. That’s the only way we change.”
Gentlemen, I hear you roar.
Now, think of your own life. Remember the last time you went though your own hell? Do you remember how you felt when you eventually came through the other side? Think back to how it changed you. Think about the metamorphosis.
I can honestly say I would not want to repeat the various hells I’ve been through, including a divorce and living with Ms. MS. But those dark moments have changed me to my very core and softened my view of the world. I’m learning with each journey the shore eventually comes if I keep paddling.
Keep those oars in the water and never give up, my friends.
For an excellent review of A million miles in a thousand years, which also includes a video review, visit Chris Brogan’s Blog. Also, visit a recent post over at Tim’s blog for more thoughts about our stories.
For more examples of storytelling, I invite you read the posts in my Front Porch series.
[Photo courtesy ishane]